Student commencement speakers share memories, plans and dreams


Sarah Morgan (left) and Anna Patterson will be the student commencement speakers on May 14.

More than 1,800 students are expected to take part in the May 14 commencement at the KFC Yum! Center.  Overall, about 3,000 students will finish their degrees this semester.

Two of those soon-to-be graduates were selected as commencement speakers.

Anna Patterson, a Georgetown, Indiana native who is graduating from the School of Music, will speak at the 10 a.m. ceremony and Sarah Morgan, who is graduating from the Kent School of Social Work, will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

After UofL, Patterson plans to head to graduate school at DePaul University, Chicago, to continue her music education.

Morgan, who hails from Alexandria, Va., also plans to go to graduate school. But first, she plans to spend a year with the nonprofit organization AmeriCorps.

UofLNews caught up with Patterson and Morgan to learn more about their time at UofL and their plans for the future. Here’s what they had to say:

UofLNews: Why did you choose UofL?

Morgan: After attending small Catholic schools my entire life, I chose UofL to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to experience a large school with a diverse student population in a new state. UofL was such a great choice for me and I have completely fallen in love with Louisville and Kentucky as a whole.

Patterson: I had been studying with cello professor Paul York for several years before attending college. As my high school career came to a close, I felt I still had more to learn from Mr. York. Also, the UofL School of Music is a great institution on its own. So I applied, was accepted, and the rest is history. Also, UofL was the most financially responsible option. I would be able to graduate debt free — a huge selling point for any student. It’s not a romantic story, but it was a huge factor in my decision.

UofLNews: What was the most memorable moment of your college experience?

Morgan: I would have to say the most memorable moment took place not on campus, but in Zastron, South Africa. I was lucky enough to go to Africa with the Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging this last year and see a community of children raising other children due to the AIDs epidemic taking the lives of many of their parents. On this trip, I saw such an immense amount of compassion, joy and love, as well as resilience and survival. I think that being able to represent the university in such a remarkable area, and experience so much, will leave a lasting impression on me.

Patterson: During the summer of 2014 I traveled to Costa Rica with a small orchestra from the university. We were completely immersed in the culture, which was an incredible experience. I had to channel all the Spanish I learned in a two-week crash course when I was 13, as my host family spoke no English. The orchestra performed for a sold-out house at the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica and at other local venues around the country. The people, the food, the adventures — all of it was unforgettable.

UofLNews: How do you define success?

Morgan: (Novelist) Maya Angelou captured perfectly how I define success: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Patterson: It’s difficult not to respond to this question with a cliché answer. But I believe success is what you make of the circumstances you are given. It is in the eye of the beholder, if you will. While I was applying and auditioning for graduate school, I constantly had to tell myself, were I to be rejected, that it did not mean I was a failure. My success was based on my willingness to persevere. And I believe that is the definition of success: The willingness to persevere through challenges and come out on the other side stronger.

UofLNews: Who inspired you during your academic journey?

Morgan: The Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging is full of some of the most inspirational, intelligent and compassionate people in the city. Dr. Anna Faul, Dr. Joseph D’Ambrosio, and Sam Cotton are impacting the field of social work and healthcare in such a positive, brilliant manner. I was so lucky to be given the opportunity to surround myself with people who believed in compassion for others and who work tirelessly to improve the world around them for themselves and others. The Kent School has been a constant inspiration as well. I have been lucky enough to work with brilliant students and pioneers in the field, including Jeanelle Sears, Lori Mellor and Debi Heisler. My cohort and fellow students of the Kent School Class of 2016 have been my backbone through the last two years, and have challenged me to think differently, critically, and from all perspectives.

Patterson: My family has been a constant support system throughout my academic career. Even when I said I wanted to be a musician — which we all can admit is not the most lucrative occupation — they never batted an eye. My dad would spend hours researching cello cases while my mom took copious notes during my lessons.

UofLNews: What’s next for you?

Morgan: At the end of May, I swear in as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Louisville nonprofit Louisville Grows for the next year. I am thrilled to be staying in Louisville for another year, and engage with more citizens, working to empower communities and promote sustainable living.

Patterson: This summer I will be getting married, then moving to Chicago. In September I will begin attending DePaul University, where I will be pursuing a master’s degree in instrumental performance.

UofLNews: What will you tell your peers during your commencement speech?

Morgan: I plan to tell my peers to continue to practice what we have learned at the University of Louisville. We shouldn’t give up on our vision for the future and work to achieve it, just like we worked to get where we are now.

Patterson:Although I have been given the honor to speak, I can in no way fully encompass all the thoughts, accomplishments and experiences that sit before me in this room. Each one of us has taken a different path that has brought us to this point. Our mistakes, our triumphs, our failures and successes have shaped us these past four years. We’ve all written a story, each as beautiful and unique as the next. But this chapter has come to a close. Now we begin the next.